[Yet another installment in my series on “Godly Success,” based on 2 Peter 1:3, 5-8.]
Cain killed Abel and started a war that hasn’t ended yet. We see it continue with Jacob and Esau, Leah and Rachel, James and John (I bet Jesus didn’t give them the nickname “Sons of Thunder” because they were so kind to one another). My husband, one of six siblings, remembers being repeatedly pounded into the lawn by his next-older brother during elementary school. Our two daughters also had their moments—our favorite was, “She’s breathing my air!”
As an only child, I really didn’t understand sibling relationships. Thank goodness my husband could offer insight on how to deal with dueling sisters! I honestly thought they hated one another until a third party was added to the household. When our girls were in 8th and 10th grades, we became foster parents for a 15-year-old teenage girl. Suddenly, it was a whole new ballgame. Our kids welcomed the newcomer, but in any sort of conflict it was the sisters who presented a united front.
As a refresher, here is what Peter has written regarding God’s plan for success:
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. … For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:3, 5-8, TNIV)
When I read Peter’s phrase “mutual affection,” also translated as “brotherly affection” (NLT) or “brotherly kindness” (KJV), it was that “I’ve got your back” sort of devotion that popped into my mind. I looked up the phrase in a concordance and found that most of the time it refers to God’s affection for us. (I know Jesus loves me, but I don’t often think about the fact that He likes me too, and not just on Facebook.) Later, Paul uses it interchangeably with “brotherly love,” or phileo (φιλíα), such as in Romans 12:10.
Some people are really easy to like. Others, not so much. I used to hear people claim that, “God tells me to love other people, but I don’t have to like them!” Well, apparently, God doesn’t let us off the hook that easily.
But how do we force ourselves to feel affection when it doesn’t come naturally? I suspect it’s very similar to arriving at forgiveness. First we decide that we’re going to do it, purely as an act of obedience. We can pray with assurance, asking God for help, because we know it’s His will. Then we act as if the feelings were there, even if they aren’t yet, trusting God to change our attitudes as we depend on Him.
I find it somewhat funny that here Peter is exhorting us to just like one another—and it takes faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, and godliness to accomplish that! We haven’t even gotten to that final pinnacle of success: love.
Jesus never said that following Him was going to be easy.